Moolmanshoek Natural Heritage
The Moolmanshoek Private Nature Reserve lies in the Witteberg mountain range which roughly runs in a north-south direction between Ficksburg and Bethlehem. The upper parts of these mountains (above 2000 meters) consist of Drakensberg basalt, a volcanic rock. The basalt is clearly visible where cliffs were formed on the higher peaks, notably on Visierskerf, at 2407meter, the highest peak in the mountain range. Below the basalt lies the Clarens Sandstone, a relatively soft rock formation. This was deposited before the basalt outflow as sand dunes during a very dry period in the earth’s history. The sandstone forms interesting and beautiful topographical features like caves, deep ravines, waterfalls, rock pools and strange shapes.
The flora in the Reserve is typical of the Eastern Free State highlands mountain environment, with a variety of trees, shrubs, herbs, succulents and climbers growing on the mountain slopes and in the ravines. The plains are dominated by grasses and sedges. Dominant trees and shrubs are the ouhout (Leucosidea sericea), ghwarrie (Euclea crispa), sagewood (Buddleia salvivolia), Cape myrtle (Myrsine africana) dogwood/blinkblaar (Rhamnus prinoides) and a few fynbos species. Scarcer species from this area, like the sugarbush protea (Protea caffra) mountain kiepersol (Cussonia paniculata), red hairy heath (Erica cerinthoides), mountain bamboo (Thamnocalamus thessellatus) and the scarce cat’s claw (Harveya capensis) also grow in the reserve. Because of the presence of these scarce species (notably the mountain bamboo), and the good state of conservation, the reserve was declared a South African Natural Heritage Site (No 199) in 1994.
A wide variety of wild animals roam the plains and mountain slopes of the reserve. Game species like black wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbuck, blesbuck, zebra, steenbok, mountain rhebuck, eland and gemsbok roam the reserve, while some of the other common residents are black-backed jackal, caracal, porcupine, mongoose and meerkats. More than 230 bird species have been recorded in the reserve, with some of these aviators being the black eagle, jackal buzzard, bald ibis, grey heron, redbilled woodhoopoo, rameron pigeon and eagle owl. There are many farm dams and large marshy areas in the reserve, attracting a wide variety of aquatic birds.